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Sustainability News

August 29, 2019

People sitting around table talking and brainstormingWhat is the future of coffee in a changing climate? How can we enhance the livelihoods of farmers while protecting the nature that surrounds them?

Conservation International and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research partnered with Arizona State University to help answer these questions.

“Farmers and government planners are making decisions today based on their past experience,” ASU-CI Professor of Practice and CI Peru's Director of Science and Development Percy Summers said. “This works in a [short-term, predictable] world, but increasingly change has become the new norm.”

ASU Professor Lauren Keeler joined Professor Marco Janssen, alum Kayla Bellman and current graduate student Manuela Vanegas Ferro at a workshop from May 28-29 to explore conservation approaches with local stakeholders. Attendees included coffee farmers, representatives of regional government, businesses and non-governmental organizations. The workshop was partially funded by resources awarded to foster collaboration between ASU and CI. Master of Sustainability Solutions student Shelbie Draper did not attend the workshop, but did work closely with CI on the topic.

Man standing and smiling in lush coffee plantation
Percy Summers visiting one of the coffee plantations near Rioja, Peru
Located in north Peru at the eastern Andean foothills, Alto Mayo is one of the most biodiversity-rich places on earth. However, it is also the region of Peru with the highest deforestation rates. Increased coffee demand and improved market connectivity from a new highway system have led to an influx of people and unsustainable farming practices.

“The dynamics of deforestation in Alto Mayo has been difficult to understand from far away,” ASU-CI Professor of Practice and CI’s Senior Science Director Miroslav Honzak said. “However, once we started the discussions with local stakeholders, the complexity of the issue emerged in the full light.”

Using a Quantitative Scenario Development approach, workshop attendees mapped out four potential futures for the region they hope to link to the National Coffee Action Plan 2018-2030, which is a government plan launched in Oct 2018 by the Peruvian government.

Two men bending down testing coffee samples on table
Assessing coffee quality at the CI's coffee lab in Rioja, Peru
“The chance to work with people from all over the country and the world was a great experience and the team was so welcoming and supportive,” Draper said. “The Master of Sustainability Solutions program gave me the opportunity to further my education with professors who care about the material and their students, while also allowing me to work on a project that put that education to use.”

In the future, the team hopes to use information like this to develop models that will quantitatively assess the sustainability of landscape-level actions and investments not only in the Alto Mayo region, but also around the world.

“We will create a comprehensive strategy map that will bolster the local efforts to confront deforestation and promote quality coffee production, by leveraging futures thinking and sustainability principles advanced during the workshop,” Honzak said.

This collaboration was made possible through the ASU-Conservation International partnership, which promotes conservation research and seeks to train the next generation of conservation leaders.

Nearly 30 workshop participants standing indoors together with mountain in background
Group photo of the workshop participants in Moyobamba, Peru

Group of people standing together in lush coffee plantation
CI-ASU-PIK staff visiting one of the coffee plantations near Rioja, Peru

Top photo: Scenarios development discussions